I am a seeker of a straight answer. What I tend to find are a dozen of choices. This is not to say that I seek the path of least resistance, I’m usually up for a good challenge. No, it’s more that I want to know when, where, how, why, and with what, and then I want to do just that to the best of my ability. Unfortunately, this is impossible when learning how to write and it’s driving me nuts. I have embarked on a career that starts with an internal drive and extends to the goal of bringing that story to an objective audience with disparate ideas about what works and what doesn’t. So how does one maneuver through this? We have reached the fork, but with four tines, perhaps more. I don’t know, I’m still new at this.
Things that I have found to be useful in learning how to write:
1- Read, Read, Read: I am lucky in this regard because I have a 5 year old who enjoys reading so we have a multitude of books and enjoy frequent trips to the book store where I can peruse the shelves to see what is out there. This has also helped me in my research for agents and editors in that I seek out those whose books I love or whose books may be similar to mine and then I add them to the list of who to query.
2- Join a critique group: This was a real eye opener. After the 10th revision and the suggested wait time, I gave up my first book to a group that was kind enough to look over my work and offer suggestions for further revision. It stung a bit, I won’t lie, but it was invaluable and gave me the fresh eyes needed to make it better than I thought it could be.
3- Do your homework: This is probably the hardest part because there are so many different ideas out there on how to write, query, submit, etc. I have spent hours reading peoples blogs, going over articles in magazines, navigating through websites to find the right way to do all of this (old habits die hard eh?) The good thing is that there is plenty of information out there on websites like underdown.org, or kidlit.com. I have also joined the SCBWI which is a gold mine for finding different ways to become a better writer.
4- Keep writing: This is something that I need to become better at if I want to grow as a writer. It involves finding time, every day if possible, to sit and just write. To put aside the stress of if I’m writing anything that is worthy of publication, and to write because I love it. It’s keeping paper and pen with you to write down ideas that pop into your head when you are in the grocery line or changing your child’s diaper. It’s accepting that you are a writer and giving yourself the freedom to write what you want to when you can.
If you have found another fork, or anything else to be helpful in the wonderful world of writing, please let me know. I’m not looking for the perfect way, just any way.